Leading the Value-Driven Business: Character

People trust Leaders who demonstrate Competence and Character. In a previous post I talked about some of the fascinating Leadership research outlined in a recent series of HBR blogs. The most recent explains why Character is so important, and how effective Leaders should demonstrate this. I’d like to pick up on the main points here because they’re incredibly relevant to every owner-managed business, to every Continous Improvement approach, to every major change programme, and of course to every Value-Driven Business. Personally, I believe they’re so important to our day to day interactions that they’re intuitive – it’s how we behave, even without realising it. As you’ll see, they’re so common that they’re repeated and commented upon to the point of becoming cliches…

1. People need to know what you’re trying to achieve and why.

Whenever we first encounter a stranger we want to know: what is this person’s intent or motivation? Hence the cliched challenge: “Halt stranger! Friend or foe?” It’s why the first words of the alien in the 1950’s sci-fi movie, as it steps from its flying saucer, are: “I come in peace”.  It’s probably why so many novels and films feature encounters between strangers – we become immediately engrossed and our natural instincts are instantly engaged.

It’s why the method actor asks his/her director : “What’s my motivation?” It’s why the question:”Who are your heroes?” tells us so much about a person. It’s why the best situation comedies are so funny – great actors develop well-defined characters, and we enjoy and come to anticipate how the different characters will interact, each seeing the world from their own perspective.

In a business context, many owner-managers vastly over-rate the mind-reading abilities of their employees. It’s important that you explain what it is that you’re trying to achieve, and why you do what you do. We all know how important it is for a business to have a clearly stated purpose, but it’s also important when it comes to the day-to-day decisions and actions of the leaders in the business. And talking of actions…

2. People hear what you say but they believe what you do.

Words are important but actions are what counts. It’s about leading by example and doing what we expect others to do. We cannot always understand a person’s motivation so we judge people by their actions and behaviours. Again, this is so well understood it’s part of our everyday language. We have phrases like “Walk the talk”. We understand the emptiness of “Do as I say, not as I do”. It’s one reason why stories and fables are so compelling. It’s why we tell “war stories” and we recount tales of key moments in people’s lives, and how they behaved.

3. Consistency is everything.

We act in accordance with our values and beliefs so one way that we can judge the extent to which others are sincere or genuine is by observing how consistent is their behaviour. If a person acts inconsistently or in a way that does not match their stated values and beliefs, we take that as a sign of falseness. To quote Marx (Groucho not Karl): “These are my principles. And if you don’t like these, I have others…”

To read more, the original HBR Blog is http://blogs.hbr.org/hill-lineback/2012/04/for-people-to-trust-you-reveal.html

You can find other blog posts about Value-Driven Manufacturing here on the Manufacturing Times blog (helpfully categorised under “Value-Driven Manufacturing”!), and you can find out more about Value-Driven Business at www.ValueDrivenBusiness. co.uk.

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